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Left Shoulder Pain playing on the low end

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Fliponbass, Dec 17, 2013.

  1. Fliponbass


    Dec 17, 2013
    I have a pain in my left shoulder (strap/fretting side) when I play on the lower end of my bass. (first 5 or so frets)
    This pain isn't instant when I play, but it builds up when I play low for a while
    I am very relaxed when I play though and I can't figure out what the source of the pain is.
    Help me!
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Possible causes could be the width of your strap and the height at which you wear your bass.

    Does your bass have neck dive ? Are you supporting the neck as you play ?
  3. Fliponbass


    Dec 17, 2013
    I'd say I have a pretty wide strap, I use a Mono Betty strap
    I also have it pretty comfortably high, just in front of my belly

    I don't think it has neck dive. and I don't understand what you mean by supporting with my neck
  4. Not supporting *with* your neck, supporting *the* neck of the bass.

    If your bass had neck-dive, you'd find you're using arm strength in an upward direction to offset the bass neck wanting to go down.

    I get bad shoulder pain on the left side sometimes. Fliponbass, how tall are you and what scale bass are you playing?
  5. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Sorry, I should have been more specific. I meant were you supporting the neck of the bass with your hand/arm when you play. Often when a bass has neck dive, this is required. Over the duration of a practice session, it can cause discomfort and aches in the shoulders and back.

    If possible it would be a good idea to post a picture or clip of you playing, so people can give a more informed opinion.
  6. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Phillipsburg, NJ
    A nice light weight 5 String bass would go a long way to fix this problem.
  7. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    BTW, how wide is "pretty wide". Personally, I would think that anything less than 3" is too narrow.
  8. Fliponbass


    Dec 17, 2013
    I am about 180 and the scale of my bass is a 34"

    There is a slight neck dive to the bass, but I would like to think it's nothing too heavy,
    when I play standing up it doesn't fall much.
  9. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    That seems to be fine to me.

    One more thing to consider. I know you said that you are fairly relaxed when you play, but sometimes without realising it, we are inclined to stiffen up or hunch our shoulders, especially if we are concentrating hard on our playing.

    May not be your problem. Just trying to cover all the
    bas(s)es. ;)
  10. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    OP, it might be worth standing in front of a mirror and playing unplugged, with your normal touch and physical posture.

    As others noted above, it's possible you're tensing muscles in your shoulder when you reach for first position. You might see, in the mirror, that your strap shoulder is a bit high--and, in front of the mirror, you could _consciously_ relax your shoulder muscles and see if your posture is different, i.e., the shoulder drops just a little.

    Another thing is that you might go ahead and shorten your strap an inch or so. If you "want" the bass to sit just a tad higher on your body, you may unconsciously be lifting the strap shoulder to get it there, and then tensing those muscles to hold the bass in position.
  11. bass_case

    bass_case Maintain low tones. Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2013
    Miami, FL
    Sounds like it occurs mainly with your elbow extended. If you play with the bass down low, so that your arm is virtually straight, you may be experiencing tendonitis in the shoulder, or the elbow... I've had this in my right elbow (not bass related) and the pain can radiate both up and down your arm so that you feel it in your shoulder. You may want to try raising your instrument a few inches so that your elbow has more of a bend when your hand is out on the neck. Good luck.
  12. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Do some shoulder stretches, address the upper back, neck and rotor cuff areas and see how you get on.
    You may or not have a more complicated condition, so try some of the exercises to target your pain. The exercise that triggers it will be one of the ones to relieve it in the controlled environment of stretching.
    As usual take it easy, and if no improvement occurs within a few days see a medical professional.

    These are good ones in the links.



  13. Fliponbass


    Dec 17, 2013
    If my bass has a slight neck dive, should I compensate with my right arm by pushing down/diagonally on the bass?
  14. Are you sure it's only when you play lower position? Your OP said it happens after you play low for a while and not right away. If you played only higher for a while, would your shoulder hurt?

    What I'm getting at: Is it posture, weight of bass, weight distribution, etc. - OR - is it related to arm position?

    Just trying to separate the possibilities.
  15. Fliponbass


    Dec 17, 2013
    What I play higher I can usually hold out alot longer, but at that point the pain that i feel is a tired muscle feeling rather than a strained fatigued feel
  16. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    The problem is likely to be one of, or a combination of these.

    It will be a process of elimination.

    OP, you asked what to do in the case of neck dive. Depending on how severe it is, there are two possible options.

    1. There are straps that have pockets into which weights can be inserted. When these are at the body end of the bass, they counteract the neck/headstock weight. Only problem is they add to the total weight of the bass.

    2. You could move the strap button.

    You should only consider these options after you have eliminated all others.

    Check out this clip on safe L/H technique and see if it helps :

  17. Fliponbass


    Dec 17, 2013
    How can I move the strap button to better the situation?
  18. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I only gave this as a possible solution. Also, you stated earlier that you did not think the bass had neck dive.
    This would suggest at worst, minimal neck dive. So, as I suggested earlier, only do this as a last solution, after you have exhausted all other possible causes.

    To answer your question :

    It would involve unscrewing the strap button and moving it a few inches towards the top of the bass. Wood filler would be required to fill in the original hole.

    You dont want to mess around too much with your bass, unless you are 110% sure that neck dive is your problem.

    Experiment with the other suggestions first.
  19. bass_case

    bass_case Maintain low tones. Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2013
    Miami, FL
    I'm not a doctor, but I've been to a few. Is the pain:
    - a general ache or a sharp pain in a specific region
    - does it seem to radiate down the arm or up toward the neck
    - define "shoulder" - is it the area where you rest your strap? We call this the shoulder but It's not part of the actual shoulder joint which as a lot moving parts - blades, rotator cuffs, etc.
    - if it's limited to the strap area, weight could be a factor.
    - if your arm is completely extended when you play near the nut the arm may partially hang from the neck, adding weight, while with a bent arm (as when playing in higher positions) you take some of the weight off your shoulder.
    - another thought: you may be twisting your neck to watch your fingers, all of these muscles are connected and are kept pretty busy just keeping your gigantic head from flopping around.
    Assuming you're not old and decrepit (like me) I would experiment with the strap length... and stretch - shoulder rolls front and back are good.